Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Celebrate Vardavar

Vodka and homemade Baklava

Last weekend, we hosted a Vardavar celebration at our home with fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Armenia. Our gathering included Laura and myself along with our future Peace Corps volunteers Ethan and Autumn, and RPCVs David and Eloise Barshes, and Dominic and Sarah Monley. While we didn’t all serve at the same time, we do have common ground in our love for the Armenian culture.

If you are not familiar with Vardavar, head on over to Wikipedia to learn more. In practice, Vardavar is “water day” where children and teens pour water on adults. When we lived in Armenia, we had to be especially careful because most people in our city lived in an apartment building and could easily target us from high above on Vardavar. While we didn’t pour water on each other’s head last Saturday, it was another wonderful rainy day in Seattle that left us plenty wet.

Backgammon! Game on!

For the occasion, all of us created a wonderful Armenian meal of horovatz (BBQ meat), salads, dolma, cucumber, pickles, tomatoes, fried potatoes, cheese, couscous, “lavash”, baklava, Grand Candy chocolate bars, vodka, and Russian beer. Toast after toast and bite after bite left no one with an empty stomach. Laura and I hadn’t had horovatz since we left Armenia. It tasted as good as ever.

The rest of the evening was filled with stories from Armenia and experiences in Seattle, sharing of photos, and playing Nardi (Backgammon).

We want to thank David for pulling this together because it allows Laura and me an opportunity to continue to share our Peace Corps experience with those who would understand it the most.

Laura prepared the baklava. Every bite was delicious and left me craving more. If you’re interested in making it yourself, here is the recipe she followed. It was actually easy, but took some time.

Bakalava by Nina Tashchian, Nina’s Bakery (Fresno, CA)

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 3/4 cups, pus 2 tablespoons, sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 pound phyllo dough (about 2 40 9×14-inch sheets)
  • 3/4 cup clarified butter

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 350F. Lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Dissolve 1 3/4 cups sugar in the water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and bring to boil again. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add rose water if using.
  3. Combine walnuts and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
  4. Open phyllo dough and spread it out. Place 2 sheets of dough on baking sheet. Cover remaining phyllo with a damp cloth to keep from drying. Liberally brush the top of the two sheets with butter. Place 2 more sheets on top; brush with butter. Repeat until half the dough is used. Spread walnut mixture over dough.
  5. Place 2 sheets of dough over walnut mixture. Brush top with butter. Repeat until remaining dough sheets are used. Be sure to brush the top layer with butter. Cut baklava into 4 strips (2 1/4 inches wide x 14 inches long), dipping the knife into water between cuts. cut each strip into 4 rectangles (2 1/4 inches wide x 3 1/2 inches long). Cut each rectangle into halves diagonally.
  6. Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Drizzle sugar syrup over baklava and serve. Makes 32 pieces.

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